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Old 02-13-04, 05:51 PM   #1
Gus Riley
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Lightening the Load!

Here's an awesome picture of a Thunderbird pilot jettisoning his F-16. It's currently my desktop picture.

Last edited by Gus Riley; 02-13-04 at 05:56 PM.
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Old 02-13-04, 10:10 PM   #2
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Uh...and then what happened??

Pilots generally don't bail out of aircraft just because they can!
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Old 02-13-04, 11:36 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobCat
Uh...and then what happened??

Pilots generally don't bail out of aircraft just because they can!
The aircraft hit the ground hard (destroyed); the pilot hit the ground soft (lived).

The report I read said it was pilot error. He was flying a show at Mt. Home AFB, ID. He had erroneously set his altimeter for sea level. Mt. Home is a long ways above sea level. During a split "S" maneuver, he discovered he didn't have sufficient altitude left to complete the maneuver. OOPS! Time to shuck the weight and float like a feather! I understand he had less than a second to make up his mind and pull the "old yellow ring" and make like a rocket! Within that time he also determined that his aircraft was no danger to the crowd. He was not seriously injured.
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Old 02-14-04, 02:05 AM   #4
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camera must have been at some weird angle, becuase it looks like he had a good 20-50+ feet before the ground. I'm not saying he shoudl have saved it, if he could have, but its the little things that can kill you!
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Old 02-14-04, 04:26 AM   #5
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Shortly, seconds, after the picture was taken there was no space between the aircraft and the ground. Useless things... the sky above you.
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Old 02-14-04, 09:17 AM   #6
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My dad showed me the video of this. He got out right before the plane belly smacked the ground. The cause was the pilot forgot to set his altimeter ground setting to where the airshow was, he still had it set on the height for his training base. Thus, to him when the plane smacked the ground the altimeter should have still been reading >0ft above ground level. Wonder if he's still flying...
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Old 02-14-04, 09:28 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by spazegun2213
camera must have been at some weird angle, becuase it looks like he had a good 20-50+ feet before the ground. I'm not saying he shoudl have saved it, if he could have, but its the little things that can kill you!
At the speed the F-16 is traveling upon exiting a Split "S" maneuver, 20-50 feet is less than an eye-blink. There was absolutely no chance of saving the ACFT, he simply ran out of maneuvering room. If the contrail is examined closely you can see that the ACFT was not traveling on a straight and level course. Its path was vertically toward the ground with the ACFT positioned in a horizontal position. A "Pancake" type hit was the result.

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Old 02-14-04, 09:55 AM   #8
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and how much did this aircraft cost?
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Old 02-14-04, 11:40 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by velocipedio
and how much did this aircraft cost?
Unit cost: F-16C/D, $20 million plus
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Old 02-14-04, 11:43 AM   #10
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i would hope that the pilot in question had to face court-martial for this, human error costing $20 million is quite a bit of human error.
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Old 02-14-04, 11:51 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
i would hope that the pilot in question had to face court-martial for this, human error costing $20 million is quite a bit of human error.
Most likely not a Court-martial, but most certainly a board of inquiry and a critical investigation into his air-worthiness.

Human error isn't "always" a punishable offense regardless of the cost in material. To be sure there will be repercussions for this pilot's mistake. His AF career is most likely on the rocks to be sure, for he was supposed to be one of the USAF's top pilots (Thunderbird). A stupid error for sure.

We'll have to wait and see.
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Old 02-14-04, 05:32 PM   #12
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No, he won't face court-marital. That's for breaking the law. Do you face a criminal trial for being dumb? He will have a flight review and, pending that, he's flying a desk in the Pentagon right now. He may even be returned to flight status. Everyone makes mistakes - it'll just depend on what the mishap investigation turns up. Hell, in the air force, they might just give him a medal for it!

If you want to see more information, including an in cockpit video of this crash, look here: http://www.avweb.com/newswire/10_06a.../186633-1.html

"camera must have been at some weird angle, becuase it looks like he had a good 20-50+ feet before the ground"
When your vertical velocity is -3000 feet per minute, there's no such thing as a "good 20-50+ feet before the ground"!! He pulled as hard as he could, but his velocity vector (momentum) couldn't be changed that radically, so even though the plane had started to level off in attitude, he was still decending very rapidly.
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Old 02-14-04, 06:49 PM   #13
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skiahh... i think there's certainly a case for criminal negligence.
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Old 02-14-04, 08:14 PM   #14
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A Mig pilot did that a few years back at the Farnborough show. He had a flame out and stayed with it long enough to point away from the crowd. He ejected while pointed straight down and less than 500' up! I guess it turned out to be a good landing. That is, he walked away.

Even though this guy looks pointed slightly upward, he still has some downward momentum to overcome, so he may well have made the correct decision to bail. If he was wrong, well...sometimes it's just safer to risk being wrong.

As for the $20 million, I guess you could chalk it up as an advertising cost, since that's really what the thunderbirds are. The Air Force decided it's worth some cost to inspire their recruits and offer some spectacle to the people who pay their bills.

When was this? I haven't heard about a thunderbird crash for years?
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Old 02-14-04, 10:00 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
skiahh... i think there's certainly a case for criminal negligence.
You mean you could make a case that this individual was criminally negligent?

I don't think so. He made a simple mistake and no one got hurt. True, he did cause the destruction of the aircraft, but I don't think that was criminal. From the Manual for Courts-Martial on Dereliction of Duty (Article 92):

(3) Dereliction in the performance of duties.
(a) That the accused had certain duties;
( b ) That the accused knew or reasonably
should have known of the duties; and
(c) That the accused was (willfully) (through
neglect or culpable inefficiency) derelict in the performance
of those duties.


and more:

(c) Derelict. A person is derelict in the performance
of duties when that person willfully or
negligently fails to perform that person’s duties or
when that person performs them in a culpably inefficient manner.
“Willfully” means intentionally. It refers to the doing of an
act knowingly and purposely,
specifically intending the natural and probable
consequences of the act. “Negligently” means an act
or omission of a person who is under a duty to use
due care which exhibits a lack of that degree of care
which a reasonably prudent person would have exercised
under the same or similar circumstances. “Culpable
inefficiency” is inefficiency for which there is
no reasonable or just excuse.
(d) Ineptitude. A person is not derelict in the
performance of duties if the failure to perform those
duties is caused by ineptitude rather than by willfulness,
negligence, or culpable inefficiency, and may
not be charged under this article, or otherwise punished.


I think what happened here falls under the Ineptitude paragraph. I suppose if the Air Force wanted to, they could make a case of Negligence, but I doubt it would stick. They're not going to send a pilot to jail for crashing an airplane because of a mistake. He was on an authorized flight, doing authorized maneuvers with due care. He made an error on one of the steps of his takeoff checklist. He didn't skip the step, he didn't purposefully decide to use the wrong setting, he just made a mistake.

Like I said before, he might lose his wings for it. He might not. What's the rest of his record say? I'd say it's probably pretty good to have been selected for the team. So, he may get to keep flying. He probably won't get promoted any more, so he his career potential is gone, but a criminal record? I don't think so.

And for the record, a Court-Martial is a federal criminal trial and verdict.
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Old 02-14-04, 10:19 PM   #16
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i wonder if a civilian who wasted $20 million of taxpayers' money through stupidity would get off so easily. somehow i doubt it.
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Old 02-15-04, 08:27 AM   #17
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Airline pilots who live through a crash get off this easily. Accidents happen all the time in the military, the complexity of the equipment, the power, and pushing the limits of the envelope can put you in a position you cannot recover from.
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Old 02-15-04, 08:31 AM   #18
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He will fly again because of these factors:
Quote:
Also, the board determined other factors substantially contributed to creating the opportunity for the error to occur, including the requirement for demonstration pilots to convert AGL elevations to MSL altitudes, and performing a maneuver with a limited margin of error. Instead of just zeroing the altimeter to deck level as a result of the crash, procedures have been changed to require that Thunderbird pilots climb an extra 1,000 feet before starting the Split-S maneuver. Pilots must also call out their altitude to the ground safety operator in MSL rather than AGL numbers.
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Old 02-15-04, 08:36 AM   #19
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i shouldn't be surprised. in the usaf, you can bomb your allies and get away with it, why not get away with wasting $20 million worth of equipment?
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Old 02-15-04, 10:42 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
i shouldn't be surprised. in the usaf, you can bomb your allies and get away with it, why not get away with wasting $20 million worth of equipment?
I didn't want to say anything from your first post; but I suspected this might be at the core of your responses.

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Old 02-15-04, 10:58 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gus Riley
I didn't want to say anything from your first post; but I suspected this was at the root of your responses.
no.. actually... it was skiahh's post of the articles from the manual for court-martial that made me think of it. in the bombing case, as in this case, i'm sure that it was an accident [no, the usaf does not have any grudge against its allies, of that i am sure], but i am continually baffled at how negligence is excused in the military. my understanding has always been that, if there is a case for criminal negligence -- and failing to set a basic piece of equipment for new conditions, thus losing a rather expensive piece of machinery -- there should be a hearing and charges. if the pilot [or whatever] is not guilty, it should be up to the court to find him so.

i can't say for sure, but i imagine that in other countries, a court martial would be almost automatic in situations like this. i guess i just can't understand why the us forces are so hesitant to take issues to court. [i'm not damning the afghanistan pilots; i personally don't think there was personal culpability, but i would have liked to see the true story, including the question of "go pills," come out in court,]
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Old 02-15-04, 11:15 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
no.. actually... it was skiahh's post of the articles from the manual for court-martial that made me think of it. in the bombing case, as in this case, i'm sure that it was an accident [no, the usaf does not have any grudge against its allies, of that i am sure], but i am continually baffled at how negligence is excused in the military. my understanding has always been that, if there is a case for criminal negligence -- and failing to set a basic piece of equipment for new conditions, thus losing a rather expensive piece of machinery -- there should be a hearing and charges. if the pilot [or whatever] is not guilty, it should be up to the court to find him so...
Please accept my apologies. I believe that it has been stated that there will or has been an investigation into the accident and the pilot was found at fault. There was or will be repercussions that will adversely effect the pilot and his career. It is highly doubtful he will suffer prison, and rightfully so. He made a mistake...was it criminal? Personally I don't think so. Was it dumb? You bet, and this is where the USAF will take issue with this guy. Does the USAF have millions of dollars wrapped up in the pilot’s training? You bet and this is something else they also have to consider before permanently taking his wings away. In this pilot’s case, the USAF must weigh the facts, plusses and minuses. If he is allowed to continue flying, can he be trusted not to make a similar or worse mistake in the future....ete etc.
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Old 02-15-04, 04:25 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
no.. actually... it was skiahh's post of the articles from the manual for court-martial that made me think of it. in the bombing case, as in this case, i'm sure that it was an accident [no, the usaf does not have any grudge against its allies, of that i am sure], but i am continually baffled at how negligence is excused in the military. my understanding has always been that, if there is a case for criminal negligence -- and failing to set a basic piece of equipment for new conditions, thus losing a rather expensive piece of machinery -- there should be a hearing and charges. if the pilot [or whatever] is not guilty, it should be up to the court to find him so.

i can't say for sure, but i imagine that in other countries, a court martial would be almost automatic in situations like this. i guess i just can't understand why the us forces are so hesitant to take issues to court. [i'm not damning the afghanistan pilots; i personally don't think there was personal culpability, but i would have liked to see the true story, including the question of "go pills," come out in court,]
Simple accidents are treated differently than those where ordnance is involved. Make a mistake, crash a plane doing an authorized maneuver and you'll probably lose your wings, not get promoted etc.

Expend ordnance incorrectly and there's a whole different set of rules. I am not familiar enough with those types of investigations or of the bombing range accident specifically to comment. Definately, what we see on the surface and what's been reported in the press points to court-martial. However, I've found that the news is typically about 10% or so accurate (OK, so maybe I'm a bit cynical, here, but it's still farther below 100% than it should be) and if the reporter can't get the details they want, they speculate or elaborate based on their own "expertise", usually painting things to attract the most attention possible, so I try not to rely on them as much of a basis for any conclusions.

We're also a culture that has become reluctant to assign individual blame. Put coffee between your legs, drive over a speedbump and burn yourself and it's not your fault you didn't take proper precautions, it's McDonald's because the coffee was hot. Crash your car because you were tired and it's the manufacturer's fault for the steering not staying perfectly straight (while you took your nap). The military's not totally immune to these kinds of things and, the air force is probably the least "military" of all our services. Ask a Navy skipper who has "grounded" his ship. And by grounded, I mean any part of the vessel touching anything underwater, damage or no. Shifting sand bar that grazes the bottom of the ship, for example. That CO will lose his command, even if he was asleep in his rack. He is responsible for everything about his ship and is still treated that way.

There is no doubt lawyers manipulate the laws in ways the writers didn't intend; sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. There have been incidents I've read about from the inside and wonder how the heck the individuals didn't get drawn and quartered - and think they should have. There are others or where it was someone else's fault or just a simple mistake where someone was "made an example" of. Not always fair or the best system. But usually it works right. The airshow is probably one of those cases; he'll fly again and probably should. His airforce career is likely done and maybe rightfully so, maybe not. Do we truly want to be a "zero defect" society? Does everyone have to be absolutely perfect in everything? Granted, some errors have bigger consequences than others, but still... we aren't perfect and make mistakes. Of course, I could be in error....
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Old 02-18-04, 11:59 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by velocipedio
i wonder if a civilian who wasted $20 million of taxpayers' money through stupidity would get off so easily. somehow i doubt it.
Pilots in combat situations deserve some kind of special consideration. Pilots at air shows are a different matter. He probably still works for the military, but regardless of formal punishment, I expect (hope) it was what we in the private sector would call "career ending."

Maybe an accident, but that's why it's so hard to become a fighter pilot. No room for mistakes. I would hope it would be decades, if ever, that they even let him fly a chopper.
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Old 02-18-04, 12:09 PM   #25
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All I'm saying is that I'm in awe of how fast them pilots process things. To be able to identify a friend or foe within a second or less. Maybe that was before the Friend or Foe electronics, but still... they gotta process real quick.
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